Meet Sonja Shah-Williams
Join us in warmly welcoming Sonja Shah-Williams, BSc (Hons) APA, to our collective of experts. Sonja is an Ayurvedic Medicine practitioner, author, and the founder of Ayurvedic lifestyle and body oil brand Anala. You can pre-order Sonja’s debut book, ‘A Little Book of Self Care, Ayurveda: An ancient system of holistic health to bring balance and wellness to your life’ , and her fabulous oils, from our wellbeing shop. We talked to Sonja to find out more about her practice – and why she believes that Ayurveda is so important for modern life.
Sonja grew up in West Yorkshire, where her father was one of the first Indian GPs. ‘From him, I gained my desire to help to heal, to nurture, and to see people become strong both physically and emotionally, thus getting the most out of life,’ she says. Growing up close to the beautiful Yorkshire Moors, she experienced our oneness with nature and connection to the universe first hand. Additionally, her mother nurtured her passion for instinctive, balanced and wholesome cooking and nutrition.
For Sonja, Ayurveda – a holistic system of health that has been practised for thousands of years in India and Sri Lanka – is ‘THE system of medicine’, bringing balance through acknowledging and working with our interconnectedness with nature. ‘We are in a period of imbalance, both individually and societally, with a huge increase in many preventable diseases of the body and mind,’ says Sonja. ‘Ayurveda – ancient, deeply spiritual, both scientific and logical – is needed now more than ever before.’
For someone who’s new to Ayurveda, where is the best place to start?
I would advise anyone who is new to Ayurveda to find a book that will allow them to learn simple principles and ways to apply them to their daily lives. My ‘A Little Book of Self Care, Ayurveda’ was written with this in mind. It will be available from late December 2020.
We have to be fully ready to make changes in our lives, because Ayurveda is not a quick fix. Rather, it is a hugely transformative journey into self-discovery and holistic balance.
What one thing could someone do today to improve their wellbeing based on the principles of Ayurveda?
The most important thing would be to understand and accept that you are the change-maker of your own holistic health and wellbeing. Every change begins with us.
Can you tell us about why you created Anala body oils, and how to use them.
I created Anala 100 per cent pure flower Ayurvedic body oils to bring the ancient Ayurvedic art of anointing and perfuming the body to a modern setting. To oil the skin is to nurture and heal ourselves at a deep, cellular level. Anointing the body is about self-love, and creating a few precious moments in our busy lives to simply ‘be’, to anchor ourselves, and to find stillness in order to listen to our inner calling.
The oils make the skin smell divine whilst working to soften and heal it both externally and at a deeper level. They quickly penetrate into the deeper tissues, and calm the mind. There are two recipes – Anala Morning and Anala Evening – and each contains a unique blend of prized and revered pure ingredients, whose exquisite perfume lingers long after application.
How do you balance your own work and wellbeing?
I balance my work and wellbeing by keeping to a daily routine. Routine is key in Ayurveda, as it’s all about following the rhythms of the universe and nature. I am fortunate to work for myself, and predominantly from home, so I ensure that my mealtimes, exercise, walks in nature, and waking and sleeping times are similar each day. Doing plenty of grounding activities is crucial for me, and indeed for everyone – so abhyanga (self-massage), pranayama (breathing with awareness), being outside, preferably in nature, and communicating with family and friends all help to stabilise me. Keeping a journal is great too. Routine allows us to prioritise ourselves before our work. Otherwise, work becomes us, and we lose sight of ourselves.
What’s your typical day before 9am?
I wake at 6.30am and then scrape my tongue (this is the normal way to start the day for Indian people, and very much part of Ayurveda) before drinking a small glass of warm water with a squeeze of lime. I splash my face with a little warm water, and then I will do abhyanga, or self-massage, with a little sesame oil before showering. I then moisturise my body with Anala Morning blend, which creates focus and intention, is detoxifying and cleansing, and increases compassion for oneself as well as others. This is usually followed by some gentle yoga postures and 5 minutes of pranayama to ground myself, set intentions, and prepare my body and mind for the day. I then make myself a gorgeous smoothie.
What mantra do you live by?
My mantra is ‘let things be’. We often create stories, and bring emotions from the past or projections about the future into our day-to-day lives. This expends a great deal of energy that depletes us. Whatever will be will be.
The mantra also helps me to nourish the deep bond I had with my father, who died many years ago. He used to sing ‘Que Sera, Sera’ (whatever will be, will be), the signature song of Doris Day, all the time. I can still hear him singing it to my siblings and me in the car! He was a great example of someone who was deeply grounded and allowed things just to be.
Anala’s wonderful small batch, hand blended pure body oils – which allow you to immerse yourself in the scents and sensations of Ayurveda both in the morning and evening after bathing – are in our shop here. Sonja’s book, the perfect introduction to Ayurveda, which is available from late December, can be pre-ordered here.